Mississippi has the second-lowest workforce participation in the country at 55 percent. That means 55 percent of working age adults in Mississippi are not working. Why?
The Mississippi Department of Education tells us that in 2017, Mississippi will see approximately 14,000 students drop-out of high school. Nearly 20 percent of working-age adults in our state are high school drop-outs. Of those who graduate high school and go to college, only 34 percent complete a 2-year or 4-year degree. What do our young people do after leaving high school?
Industry tells us that jobs are available, but qualified individuals are scarce. According to the State Workforce Investment Board, by 2017, an estimated 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs are expected to be added to the workforce in Mississippi. Middle-skill jobs require some training beyond high school, but less than a bachelor’s degree and will account for 40 percent of all job growth in Mississippi. We can look around our communities and see that success is measured in many ways. A four-year degree is not required to be successful. Not every high school student should pursue a bachelor’s degree; however, EVERY student should consider training to prepare for a career. Nurses, paramedics, electricians, truck drivers, day care workers, plumbers, mechanics — these are the heart of our communities. These are successful, highly-skilled individuals who make a living for their families and contribute to our society.
Career and Technical Education is what our students and our communities need right now. As technology evolves and skilled workers retire, the needs of the workforce in Mississippi are changing. The Mississippi Department of Education recently adopted College and Career Readiness Standards with the understanding that so much of the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce are greatly similar. Public schools across the state are working to prepare our children for the future and Career and Technical Education is an integral part of that.
The Clarke County Career and Technology Center, still known as the Vo-Tech to many, is the place where QHS students prepare for their futures. We currently have 201 Quitman High School students (37 percent of all QHS students) enrolled in Career and Technical Programs in six areas: Automotive Service Technology, Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Education, Forestry, Health Science, and Broadcast Journalism.
Career and Technical Education courses are designed to train a qualified workforce for today’s competitive job market. Our research-based programs meet national and/or state accreditation standards. They also constantly evolve in response to changing workforce needs.
Our instructors are highly qualified professionals, many of whom have worked in their respective industries before coming to CCCTC. They provide our students with invaluable experiences and real-world lessons. Our small classes provide students with the opportunity for hands-on learning and exploration. All of our courses include lab or clinical experiences in businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities in our community.
CTE programs prepare students for college. CTE courses combine a high level curriculum with expert instruction to prepare students to excel in college programs. Each program has a rigorous curriculum that prepares students to succeed at the community college and university levels. Our students have the opportunity to compete for scholarships at the local, college, and national levels.
CTE programs prepare students for the workforce. Our students are some of the brightest and most motivated of QHS. They excel in their courses and in competition at the state and even international level. CTE students have an opportunity to challenge themselves, explore career opportunities, and learn skills that equip them for entry-level positions in their fields of study, as well as training beyond high school. Our students are able to earn industry certifications while in high school, such as ASE mechanic certifications, National Restaurant Association ProStart certifications, and CPR/First Aid certifications.
CTE programs prepare our students to take on the world. Our mission at the Clarke County Career and Technology Center is to help our students see that there is a pathway to success for each of them and to equip them to take the next steps. Our students hone their leadership skills in student organizations, compete across the United States, and participate in youth forums at leading Medical Schools. They have the opportunity to explore hundreds of careers that are on the cutting edge and try them on for size. Some will become our doctors, engineers, lawyers, and teachers. Others will pursue associate’s degrees at community colleges in business, culinary arts, forestry, or in nursing, dental assisting, or any number of programs in the medical field. Those students who do not go to college should go into workforce training through a community college or other program. Local community colleges provide training and certifications in a number of workforce areas, from medical to industrial, at a reasonable cost. The JCJC campus in Stonewall and MCC both offer flexible and affordable programs that equip students to enter a skilled and competitive workforce, and both colleges work with us to provide opportunities to our students.
For more information about the Clarke County Career and Technology Center, visit www.ccctc.weebly.com, or call 601-776-5219.
• Dana Mayo is CTE Counselor for the Clarke County Career and Technology Center, Quitman School District.